My SUCCESS Magazine Audio Interview

May 13, 2013

Today’s Monday Morning Movie is actually an audio file…

In the October 2012 issue of SUCCESS Magazine, there was a four page article by yours truly. You’ve been able to read the article online since it was published. (It is the cover article; “Innovate of Die!”)

However, unless you subscribe to the magazine, you will not have heard my 22 minute interview with SUCCESS Magazine’s publisher, Darren Hardy. It was on the CD included with the magazine, but not available anywhere else.

Darren was kind enough to give me permission to post the audio file here.

You have two ways to enjoy this interview:

  • Listen to the audio (streaming): 

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

  • Download the audio (mp3) (right click to save to your computer)

I will be posting the transcription of this interview sometime soon.

Enjoy!

My Favorite Blog Posts of 2011

January 11, 2012

Given that we are in a new year, I thought it might be nice to reflect on the past year.  So today I want to share with you my favorite blog entries from 2011.  I chose my top 10 for three categories: 1)innovation & creativity, 2) general business, and 3) life and happiness.  Admittedly, the articles I like most tend to come from the last category as they are more personal in nature.

The articles are not listed in any particular order, but the asterisks do indicate the crème de la crème (in my humble opinion).

And don’t forget, these only represent the entries from 2011.  I have been writing since January 2005 (7 years) and have over 500 articles on this blog.

I welcome any and all comments (e.g, if I missed one you liked, or if one should be taken off the list).  Enjoy!

TOP 10 INNOVATION AND CREATIVITY ARTICLES

  1. *** Freedom Can Limit Innovation
  2. *** My ABC News Interview (and other media)
  3. *** My Article in Southwest Airlines Magazine
  4. *** Ask a Different Question, Get a Different Answer
  5. *** Ideas, Ideas Everywhere…
  6. Why Brainstorming is Stupid
  7. What I Learned From an Expired Bottle of Mayo (AMEX OPEN Forum)
  8. Is Thinking Choking Your Creativity? (AMEX OPEN Forum)
  9. Stop Asking for Ideas (AMEX OPEN Forum)
  10. Why Edison Was Wrong (AMEX OPEN Forum)
TOP 10 GENERAL BUSINESS ARTICLES
  1. *** How to Publish a Book in 2 Weeks (AMEX OPEN Forum)
  2. *** Before You Can Multiply You Must First Learn to Divide (AMEX OPEN FORUM)
  3. *** Your Customers Are Cynics (AMEX OPEN Forum)
  4. *** I Won’t Work for Money
  5. *** Why You Should Work with People You Don’t Like (AMEX OPEN Forum)
  6. How to Create a Happy Work Environment (AMEX OPEN Forum)
  7. Tactics for Captivating Your Audience (AMEX OPEN Forum)
  8. 7 Strategies for Running Your Business While Pursing Your Passions (AMEX OPEN Forum)
  9. The Performance Paradox (Idea Connection)
  10. How I Used Crowdsourcing the Wrong Way And What You Can Learn From It (AMEX OPEN Forum)

TOP 10 LIFE AND HAPPINESS ARTICLES

  1. *** Balance of Work and Life is a Myth (AMEX OPEN Forum)
  2. *** How to Embrace and Conquer Pain (AMEX OPEN Forum)
  3. *** How to Always Be On Time (AMEX OPEN Forum)
  4. *** When You Sit on the Fence, You Get Splinters in Your Ass! (AMEX OPEN Forum)
  5. *** How to Be Selfless by Being Self-Centered (AMEX OPEN Forum)
  6. *** How Losing Personal Attachments Can Help You Realize Ambition (AMEX OPEN Forum)
  7. *** How to Create Luck in Business and Life (AMEX OPEN Forum)
  8. The Key to Immediate Happiness (AMEX OPEN Forum)
  9. Is It OK To Marry Your Work - part 1 (AMEX OPEN Forum)
  10. Is It OK To Marry Your Work - part 2

 

Why Edison Was Wrong

August 7, 2009

Last night I had an enlightening conversation with Alph Bingham, the co-founder of InnoCentive from Eli Lilly.  This guy is fascinating!

Alph suggested that many people do not like open innovation (external crowd sourcing) because it runs counter to a widely held belief of the R&D community.  Researchers often throw around the Edison quote, “I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”

Researchers use this quote because it “validates” the iterative development innovation process; the cornerstone of most R&D departments.  They have convinced themselves that they learn as much from their failures as they do from their successes.  Call it what you want, the 700 attempts were failures.

When some R&D people look at open innovation, they see it as linear rather than iterative: post a challenge and get a solution.  This seems inconsistent with their belief in learning from failures.

Alph made the point that in the R&D world, the value of iterative development is overrated.

What if Edison found a solution to the light bulb challenge on the first try?  Would that be bad?  Would he have continued to find the 700 ways that did not work?  Did the 700 failures really add that much value?  Can R&D organizations afford to fail 700 times?  Not in today’s competitive environment.

Alph suggested that open innovation is a massively parallel process where failures and successes happen at the same time.  You post a challenge and you get dozens or hundreds of solutions.  Some won’t work.  But all you need is one solution that does work.  And with open innovation, you only pay only for the solutions that do work.  Failures cost you nothing in terms of time and money.  With internal iterative development, you pay for the successes and the failures.  Do you really learn enough from your failures to justify the extra cost and time involved?

Alph’s perspective is fascinating and I fully agree with him for analytical/deterministic challenges.  Creative challenges and their solutions, on the other hand, often can’t be proven correct until they are tried out in the real world.  Iterative development – via small and scaling experiments – may still be the best approach for solving less deterministic problems.  I call this approach the “build it, try it, fix it” model.  Having said that, the iterations could potentially be staged as a series of open innovation challenges that continue to refine concepts until they are market ready.  This would be a massively parallel iterative creative development.  Very cool.

This got me thinking about a conversation I had with an executive from Chrysler many years ago while I was working at Accenture.  I asked him who he felt his biggest competition would be in the future.  He pointed at me and said, “You.”  Although he was half-joking, it’s true that the role of car manufacturers these days is less about manufacturing and more about integration.  The Accentures of the world are masterful at integration.

And maybe this integration skill is the MOST important skill for your organization to have.

As platforms like InnoCentive continue to grow, problem solving of all types –creative and analytical – will be outsourced in a massive parallel way to a huge network for solvers.  If we take this to an extreme where all challenges are outsourced via crowdsourcing, the role of a company would only be to integrate these solutions together into a seamless offering.

Although this is easier said than done, this one skill may be critical for the survival of your business…and maybe even the US economy.

China and India have a growing base of highly educated engineers and experts.  Eastern European countries and parts of Asia have large creative bases.  The world is truly flat.  And all of these countries have people who are willing to work for pennies on the dollar.

If we try to beat these countries at their game, we will lose.  We could never educate enough people.  And even if we could, our workforce would probably not be willing to labor for lower wages.

Integration is the key.  Yes it is difficult.  And that is good news.  While the rest of the world is focused on the trees (the point solutions to specific challenges), we need to become masterful at defining the forest (the strategy, architecture, and integration of the point solutions).  This is where value is created.  And this is much harder to outsource.

It reminds me of something from my 24/7 Innovation book I wrote back in 2001…

“(As innovators,) we are architects of companies and industries.  An architect is not a ‘reengineer.’ To illustrate this point, I often ask clients what is the difference between an optimist, a pessimist, a reengineering consultant, and an architect. The optimist looks at a half filled glass of water and sees it as half-full. The pessimist looks at the same glass and sees it as half-empty.  The reengineering consultant sees too much glass. Cut off the top. Downsize. An architect looks at the same glass and asks questions such as ‘Who’s thirsty?’ ‘Why water?’ Or ‘Is there another way to satisfy the thirst?’ It is this questioning, challenging and rethinking that differentiates architects from those who rearrange the deck chairs on The Titanic.”

Find solutions everywhere.  Embrace open innovation.  And think like an architect. Ask the difficult questions.  Assess what matters most.  And build a core competency around integrating point solutions.

Remember, we are no longer in the tree business…we are in the forest business.

Are Your Conscious and Unconscious Minds Aligned?

August 1, 2009

While working on Innovation Personality Poker® over the years, one question has lingered in my mind…

How do we know we are getting the most accurate picture of someone’s personality?

Personality Poker is based on a 75 year old psychological testing technique called a Q-sort.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, in a Q-sort, “a person is given a set of sentences, phrases, or words (usually presented individually on cards) and is asked to use them to describe himself (as he thinks he is or as he would like to be) or someone else.” In some variations, the cards are sorted from most like the individual to least like them.

If you read academic paper about Q-sorts, you will see that the question arises as to whether or not a self-assessment is accurate. Researchers question if other methods of personality testing are more accurate.  They posit that there are three testing methods…

  1. Self-assessment (of the conscious mind)
  2. Assessment by a friend, family member, or colleague
  3. Assessment by an unbiased 3rd party who is expert in the Q-sort process

Which method is most effective?  It appears that the answer is “all of the above.”  All methods are accurate, depending on the situation.

However, there is a 4th method that is not listed above that may prove even more interesting.

Can our unconscious mind be a better predictor of our personality than our conscious mind?

There are very few methods available to answer this question. Fortunately I was introduced to people at Harvard University who developed a tool called “Implicit Association Testing (IAT).”

Harvard’s website gives a very simple introduction to the concept…

“It is well known that people don’t always ‘speak their minds’, and it is suspected that people don’t always ‘know their minds’. Understanding such divergences is important to scientific psychology. This web site presents a method that demonstrates the conscious-unconscious divergences much more convincingly than has been possible with previous methods.”

In short, these tests tell you if your conscious mind (i.e., explicit) is aligned with your unconscious mind (i.e., implicit).

We are about to start work with Harvard that will assess if the conscious mind (tested via the card-based version of Personality Poker) correlates with the results from the unconscious mind (tested via a specially designed Personality Poker IAT).

One of three scenarios will prove to be true:

  1. In most people, the conscious mind is perfectly aligned with the unconscious mind
  2. In most people, the conscious mind is not aligned with the unconscious mind
  3. Alignment between the conscious mind and unconscious mind varies from person to person

If scenario #1 proves to be true, then we will have proven the validity of the Personality Poker at both a conscious and unconscious level.

However, if scenarios #2 or #3 prove to be true, we have a new opportunity…to develop an online IAT-based Personality Poker game that we can make available to the public. In some respects, scenario #3 is most interesting, because it means that in some cases “explicit” personality testing (done via cards, questionnaires, and other diagnostics) is accurate. However in order to get a full picture of one’s personality, “implicit” testing is also required. Only through both types of testing can we get an accurate assessment of one’s total psyche.

In order to better understand Implicit Association Testing, I encourage you to take some of the tests on the Harvard IAT website. This may give you some interesting insights into your own personal biases…some of which you might not want to even admit to yourself.

How To Create a Culture of Innovation

July 6, 2009

I define innovation as an “organization’s ability to adapt and evolve repeatedly and rapidly to stay one step ahead of the competition.” A culture of innovation, when done right, gives you a competitive edge because it makes you more nimble with an increased ability to sense and respond to change.

A culture of innovation has less to do specifically with new products, new processes, or new ideas. There are of course discrete innovations such as the iPhone or a battery that is powered by viruses (MIT has developed this). These are valuable and necessary in order to create a culture of innovation.

But a culture of innovation is more than new ideas. It needs to be repeatable, predictable, and sustainable.  This only happens when you treat innovation like you treat all other capabilities in your business.  This means having, amongst other things, a defined process.

An organization’s innovation process must achieve three things.  It must:

  • focus on the “right” challenges
  • find appropriate solutions to those challenges, and
  • implement the best solutions.

These translate into three “portfolios” an organization must create:

  • A portfolio of challenges
  • A portfolio of solutions
  • A portfolio of projects

Let’s take each one at a time.

A Portfolio of Challenges

All companies have challenges. They can be technical challenges on how to create a particular chemical compound. They can be marketing challenges on how to best describe your product to increase market share. They can be HR challenges around improving employee engagement.

An organization’s ability to change (i.e., innovate) hinges on its ability to identify and solve challenges. Challenges are sometimes referred to as problems, issues, or opportunities. But at the end of the day, they are all just various forms of challenges. I will use these terms interchangeably here.

Where do you find these challenges? You can find them anywhere – from customers, employees, shareholders, consultants, vendors, competitors, and the list goes on.

Let’s face it, companies have no shortage of challenges.

And guess what, some of the most important challenges to solve are hidden due to organizational blind spots and assumption-making.

The “meta-challenge” for all organizations is to find which challenges, if solved and implemented, will create the greatest value. Given that organizations have limited resources and money, prioritization is critical.

My favorite quote (used many times in this blog) comes from Albert Einstein – “If I had an hour to save the world, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute finding solutions.” Most companies spend 60 minutes of their time finding solutions to problems that just don’t matter.

Therefore, the first step in creating a culture of innovation is to surface, identify, and codify challenges. And then you must become masterful at valuing, prioritizing, and framing these challenges.

Think of your innovation portfolio much like you would handle a financial investment portfolio.  You want some safe bets (incremental innovation) and some riskier investments (radical innovation).  You also want a variety of innovations ranging from technical challenges to marketing challenges, and service challanges to performance improvement challenges.

Once you have the right challenges to solve, the next step is to find solutions.

A Portfolio of Solutions

[Read more]

Innovation Lessons from Around the House

June 24, 2009

Last night I was hungry and decided to make some tuna fish. I opened my refrigerator and found an 18 ounce squeeze bottle of mayonnaise.  As I started to make my meal, I realized that the mayo had expired 6 months ago. I guess I don’t use it very often because the bottle was still 90% full.

After throwing out my expired food, I realized that there is a lot to learn from things we take for granted around the house.  Here are just three thoughts I had this morning…

Fail Cheaply – Although Costco is one of my favorite stores, I rarely buy perishable items there because I can’t predict how much I will use. Sometimes, as is the case with my mayo, buying the smallest size and paying a premium is better than saving money on larger quantities. Smaller quantities result in less space used, less waste when things don’t work out, and lower costs all around. In business, your best bet is to become masterful at creating small, inexpensive and scalable experiments that give you insights into the real world…not just backroom-based predictions. As you gain new insights and become more confident that a new idea will work (i.e., there is greater predictability), then you can ramp up and go for efficiency.

Sell One, Make One – I debated using a different example for this… One situation no one ever wants to be in is sitting on the toilet and running out of toilet paper. The best solution is to always have a spare roll within reach. When the main roll is finished, the spare role is put into the dispenser, and the backup roll is replaced. This is an example of a simple manufacturing technique called “sell one, make one.”  To avoid running out of product, companies often produce large quantities of inventory. But as we saw in the “fail cheaply” example above, this can lead to waste. Items that don’t sell need to be liquidated at significant discounts. In the meantime, the inventory takes up space and hurts your cash flow. Instead, if you get your manufacturing process (or your innovation implementation process) efficient enough, you can make one immediately after you sell one – that is, when you sell one, you make one. You will never run out if demand never exceeds your ability to manufacture.

Lather Rinse But Don’t Repeat – Shampoo bottles are famous for telling you to lather, rinse, and repeat. I have been doing it every morning without thinking. As an experiment, I tried skipping the repeat step. No difference. I even experimented with using less than one pump of shampoo. Same result. Sometimes we take on wasteful activities because we never through to step back and question them. I reduced shampoo usage by 75% without any impact on my hair. From my experience, most companies can reduce wasteful activities simply by questioning what has always been done in the past.

Here’s something to try. Every day, find something interesting around the house…

  • It could be the upside-down ketchup bottle (what took them so long to come up with that idea?).
  • It could be the laundry detergent that is super concentrated so you use 75% less liquid, meaning less packaging and easier carrying.
  • Or maybe it is the Clorox Disinfecting Wipes that impregnate paper towels with cleaning solution to simplify cleaning.

After selecting your innovation, see how that concept could be applied to your business.  Do not look for ways to apply that specific product.  Instead you want to apply the thought process that was used in developing the product.  For example, with the Clorox wipes, where in your business can you combine two distinct items (products or processes) to create something that is simpler and more efficient.

The purpose is not necessarily to find new ideas (although that would be nice).  Rather it is a great way to exercise your creativity muscle.

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Inc, once said, “Creativity is just having enough dots to connect… connect experiences and synthesize new things. The reason creative people are able to do that is that they’ve had more experiences or have thought more about their experiences than other people.”

Or, in my words, creativity is about “collecting and connecting” dots.

This daily exercise will help you become more observant (collecting dots).  And it will help you become masterful at connecting dots.  All of this will help you become more creative every day.

For more on my perspective on creativity, read my article on “Dot Versus Line” thinking

How To Build Innovation Networks

May 20, 2009

According to David Strom, a web/tech expert…

“Burger King ran a promotion not too long ago where they asked people to defriend 10 Facebook friends in order to get a coupon for a free burger. They were swamped with thousands of requests, thereby establishing the value of a friend at somewhere around a quarter. That is pretty depressing. I always thought a friend was worth at least a couple of bucks, if not more.”

This got me thinking.  How do we value friends?  And are all friends valued the same way? I have nearly 400 Facebook friends.  I try to only befriend people I really know.  But admittedly, some are friends of friends and I don’t know them at all.  In reality, there are only a handful of people that truly interest me.

My experience mimics that suggested in this fascinating article on how the virtual Facebook world mimics the physical world.  Although we may have hundreds of friends on Facebook, there are indeed only a handful that we maintain intimate relationships with.

Dr Robin Dunbar once suggested that humans can only have a stable network of about 150 people, also known as “the Dunbar number.”

The article shares some interesting statistics…

  • The average person has 120 Facebook friends.  This is interestingly quite close to the Dunbar number.
  • Men generally respond to postings of only 7 of those friends by leaving comments on photos, status messages or “the wall”.  Woman respond to 10 friends.
  • With two-way communication, men only chat/email with 4 people, while women communicate with 6.
  • Among those Facebook users with 500 friends, these numbers are only slightly higher (but not proportionally higher). Men leave comments for 17 friends, women for 26. Men communicate with ten, women with 16.

I find this quite interesting.  And it has interesting implications for building innovation networks and communities.

When working with an organization, I often put in place innovation “Centers of Excellence” and “Communities of Practice.” We find these are very helpful in spreading the innovation gospel into smaller, more manageable sized groups.  The research above demonstrates to me why it works so well.

While at Accenture (then Andersen Consulting), we used a similar model to build the skills of the consultants. My area was called “Process Excellence” and involved the building of innovation skills.

We created a Process Excellence Center of Excellence with 100 people.  These uber-experts were dedicated 100% to our team.  We had responsibility for their professional development and the P&L of the group.  We even split these into smaller groups based on geography and specific competencies.  This created even smaller, more cohesive groups.

We then developed a “Community of Practice Leadership Group.”  This group was comprised of 30 people. These individuals were dedicated to other parts of the business (mainly industry programs).  We were only responsible for giving them to tools necessary to lead their communities.  Leaders were selected based on their existing Process Excellence skills and their geography.

Each leader had about 50 people on average, giving us about 1,500 people in the Process Excellence Community of Practice.

At the lowest level, we had 20,000 consultants that were recipients of the training that was developed by the Center of Excellence and delivered by 150 experts hand-selected from the Community of Practice.  These sessions were delivered in small group settings with a dedicated point of contact available for post-training follow-up and mentoring.

Using this approach, we developed a powerful 20,000 person practice in only a matter of months.  Although this group accounted for almost 40% of the consultants in the company, it was one of the most active and sought after communities.

Instead of trying to create huge, faceless groups, look for opportunities to build smaller, more active communities.  Find ways to create intimate relationships between employees, customers, and vendors.

Look at your networks.  Is there an abundance of activity and dialogue?  If not, you may want to look at the sizes of your teams.  Yes, size does matter.

If you have not yet read my article published in the European Business Forum, be sure to read it now.  It gives more insights into this “community” concept.

The Updated Innovation Bell Curve

March 10, 2009

In a previous blog entry on the innovation bell curve, I presented a bimodal distribution curve rather than a bell curve.  I did this because I wanted to clearly show the contrast between the existing model and the emerging model.  I also did this because I am “graphically challenged” and I could not find a way of illustrating the movements in one chart.  However, the changes are more subtle than a total shift to a bimodal curve.  After working with a talented graphic designer for the past week, we finally have a more accurate depiction of the movement taking place.

You see the 3 main movements:

  1. Value brands are increasing their quality (including ease of use) and are moving into the Mid-Market area
  2. Consumers are increasingly buying value brands (e.g., store brands) as a way of saving money
  3. Premium brands are reducing prices while also offering different, lower-cost products.

The result is pressure on the Mid-Market brands that is squeezing many of these companies out of business.

Be sure to read all of the articles on the innovation bell curve to get a better understanding of the shifting dynamics.

Why Being Self-Centered is Good

January 27, 2009

This may seem like an odd blog entry, but it has been the topic of conversation over many dinners recently.

Although we are taught from a young age that being self-centered is a bad thing, I think that more people would benefit from being this way. Let me explain.

To start off, I am not suggesting that people should be selfish. I think of selfish as being “exclusively concerned with oneself.”

Being self-centered – in my opinion – is entirely different.

Centering is what you base your life on.

My parents are children-centered. For them, my sister and I are the most important part of their life. They live vicariously through us.

I have friends who are spouse-centered. They do everything in their power to please their partner.

Too many of my friends are work-centered. Their job is the most important aspect in their life. They get meaning from their career. It is no surprise that men are twice as likely to die during their first five years of retirement, than they are prior to retirement.

Others are service-centered. They give their lives to charity and others. They sacrifice their own well-being in the name of contribution. Oprah may fall into this category. One of the reasons she claims she put on all of her weight is that she did not spend enough time taking care of herself.

Which leads us to the benefits of self-centering.

Throughout your life, there is only one constant. You. Your children may pass away before you do. Your spouse may, in spite of all of your loving, leave you. Your job (as many people are finding out) is only temporary. Even service to others can be fraught with challenges.  If you center on someone or something else, you may be giving up control of your life.

Only YOU will be around for as long as you live.

Therefore, instead of centering your life on someone or something that may not be around as long as you, maybe you should try being self-centered. This gives you some level of stability in an unpredictable world. Even the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition – “independent of outside force or influence” – supports this notion.

Anyone who has flown on a plane has heard the flight attendant say, “If the plane loses oxygen pressure for any reason, the oxygen masks will drop down out of the small overhead compartment. If you are seated next to someone who might need some assistance, you should put your own mask on first, and then breathe normally as you assist the other person.”

Take care of yourself first. Be centered. Be grounded. Take control of your life and don’t get derailed by circumstances around you.

Being self-centered is NOT the same as being selfish. Those who are self-centered are NOT narcissistic, hedonistic, or self-absorbed. Because self-centered individuals are more grounded, they are able to give even more to others.  They have the potential to be even more generous and to make even greater contributions.

In some respects, this is in line with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (pictured above). Self-actualization (which is where I put self-centering) is the highest level, higher than esteem, love/belonging, safety and physiological needs.  Interestingly, creativity is listed under self-actualization.

What do you think?

P.S. Some may argue a more theological perspective. For example, Stephen Covey (of the 7 Habits fame) authored, “The Divine Center: Why We Need a Life Centered on God and Christ and How We Attain It.” As I try to avoid religion and politics in this blog, I’ll leave this discussion for another time.

The Innovator’s Dilemma and the US Economy

November 20, 2008

Clayton Christensen, in his book The Innovator’s Dilemma, discusses how disruptive technologies will kill incumbent technologies. Basically it is about how the crappy and cheap will eventually take over the sophisticated and expensive.

The well-worn example is in the computing world.  The PC (which until recently cost thousands of dollars) killed the dominance of the mini-computer and mainframe (which then cost tens of thousands of dollars).  The new $300 netbooks may eventually become the dominant computing platform.  Or maybe a $100 mobile phones will eventually replace computers altogether.

The dilemma arises because most companies focus their innovation energies on building faster and more sophisticated technologies: becoming bigger and better.  That is, they move towards the right of the graphic above.  Unfortunately, the newer, cheaper developments – even if they are lower quality (in the beginning) and don’t perform as well – will ultimately be the winners.  Or in other words, the left part of the graphic above.

The US Economy Dilemma

[Read more]

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